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Cubs 4, Nats 2: Lineup goes cold again in Ross’ debut

Jun 6, 2015, 2:58 PM EDT

Jun 6, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Joe Ross (41) throws to the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

GAME IN A NUTSHELL: Called up from Double-A Harrisburg for a spot start, rookie Joe Ross pitched admirably in his major league debut but it wasn’t enough to overcome yet another poor showing from the Nationals’ lineup in a 4-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday afternoon.

The Nats broke out for seven runs the night before, but were not able to carry that over into the weekend. Their lone runs came on homers by Wilson Ramos, his fourth of the 2015 season, and Bryce Harper, his 19th. Harper’s came in the ninth inning with zero outs.

Ross began the game by setting down the first nine batters he faced and went five innings with three runs allowed. He lit up the radar gun with mid-90s fastballs and was borderline dominant through the first turn of the Cubs’ batting order.

Jason Hammel, however, was much better. He tossed eight innings of two-run ball on 100 pitches.

With the loss the Nats fell to 30-26 on the season. It is their seventh defeat in their last nine games.

HITTING LOWLIGHT: Ramos and Harper’s homers were two of only five hits for the Nationals, who are averaging 2.6 runs in their last 16 games. After Ramos’ bomb in the second inning, it took 18 at-bats for Clint Robinson to record the Nats’ next hit on an infield single. Harper also added a single in the first inning and a Danny Espinosa smacked a ground-rule double in the eighth.

Hammel won yet again against the Nats and is now 9-0 against the team in 11 career starts. He finished with two runs allowed on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts.

PITCHING HIGHLIGHT: Ross came out of the gates reaching 95 miles per hour with his fastball and baffling the Cubs’ lineup with hard-breaking sliders. Through the first turn of the lineup he was perfect, setting down the first nine batters in order with three of them on strikeouts.

Ross ran into trouble the second time through the order, however, and finished with three earned runs on five innings with no walks and six hits allowed. Two of those runs came in the fifth inning before he exited for Felipe Rivero. Ross gave up a bunt single to Jonathan Herrera, who scored on a Dexter Fowler single two batters later. Anthony Rizzo then doubled Fowler home for the Cubs’ third run of the afternoon.

Rivero was also solid with three scoreless innings. He now holds a 1.69 ERA through three career outings. Taylor Hill took over after him and allowed a Cubs insurance run in the ninth on a single by Herrera to score Miguel Montero.

KEY STAT(S): Ross is the 81st player to make his MLB debut in a Nationals uniform. The Nats have had seven rookies debut already this season. The team record for a full season is nine (2006-08, 2011).

Harper has a teammate younger than him for the first time in his career, as Ross was born on May 21, 1993. Harper was born on Oct. 16, 1992.

UP NEXT: The Nationals and Cubs close this series with their final matchup of the 2015 season in a 4:05 p.m. start. Jordan Zimmermann (5-2, 2.88) and Kyle Hendricks (1-2, 3.99) will be your starting pitchers.

  1. Danny - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:01 PM

    Pathetic ABs in the 9th after Harper, Rendon

    • senators69 - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:40 PM

      As others have said, Nats need changes.

      * RZimm not getting it done — move him down in the line-up. If he rallies, move him up.

      * Done with Desi. I’d start Rendon at 3rd, Escobar at SS, Espi at 2nd. Desi to the bench. Only reason that may not happen yet is that Rizzo is hoping Desi rallies so he can get more in a trade. I’d be shocked (and dismayed) if Desi were back next year. If you think you’d be ok in the playoffs without him, trade him!

      * JRoss stays in the rotation until either Fister or Stras are back. I prefer Tanner starting until all original starters are back. Various “Taylor” pitchers need more seasoning. Look for opportunities to move them back to AAA.

      PS: You gotta love the way Maddon runs the Cubs — not afraid to pull a pitcher at the first hint of trouble given the situation.

      • senators69 - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:47 PM

        Other “crazy” idea: If Ross does well in his next start, I’d consider keeping him as a long man once Fister/Stras are back. Try it once or twice and see how he does. If he does well, that could be an ace in the hole IF the Nats pens starts to falter again. Otherwise, I agree Ross needs the starting work in the minors.

        BTW – Enlightening to hear Roark describe starting vs relieving last night in an interview. He keeps it simple. Said that apart from the obvious (but not difficult) physical adjustments, most of it is mental. He switches so well!

      • infideljack - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:44 PM

        We need Rendon in the pen until Stammen gets back. He is the only replacemnent for Stammen.

  2. nattygoats - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:04 PM

    Can’t hit Hamels. Can’t hit when it’s not over 80, can’t hit when it’s cloudy. It’s an out but he hit it hard…….. Enough already. Quit making excuses. Start hitting the ball and start playing like WS contenders your supposed to be. And for goodness sake move Zimm down to 8th.

    • manassasnatsfan - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:10 PM

      We will be fine fear not. Things need tweaking.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:22 PM

      Rendon hit a HR ball in the 1st that got blown back. Look at the lineup construction as you need Bryce up with men on base but the 2 hitter cleared the bases once with a GIDP and couldn’t extend the 8th with Espi on 2nd.

      • infideljack - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:44 PM

        Espi needs to bat 2nd.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:50 PM

        Why change what works. Espi is doing great near the bottom of the order.

        Simple solution is Esco in the 2.

        You want high OBP with speed in your #1 and #2.

      • infideljack - Jun 7, 2015 at 1:31 AM

        Ghost….because it is not working.
        Espi is doing great, but Zimm is not. Espi on base in front of Harper and Rendon is better until Escobar returns. When Escobar gets back he bats 2nd, Harper 3rd, Rendon 4, Espinosa 5, Catcher 6, LF 7, 1B 8.
        The face of the franchise and el capitan are killing the offense.
        Keep Desmond for an emergency replacement or trade him now and bring Difo up as a backup MI. If RZim can’t fix it replace him with Moore in the 8 hole. Give Loby more playing time.

  3. exposedindc - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:05 PM

    Man…..face of the franchise hitting 213 is getting tough to take, would think there’s a better option out there somewhere

    • nattygoats - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:07 PM

      Thank you.m the loyalty thing is getting old.

    • Karl Kolchak - Jun 6, 2015 at 5:14 PM

      There isn’t. Other than Difo, the Nats literally have NO position players in AA or AAA worth calling up, even as badly as Desmond and Zimmerman have played.

  4. David Proctor - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:06 PM

    I was impressed with Ross. The guy has barely pitched above single A and his stuff was good. He’s not ready for primetime yet, but I was far more impressed with what I saw out of him than AJ Cole. 3 runs in 5 innings isn’t a great line, but the Cubs are tough to pitch to and the stuff looked better than that to me. Good fastball, good changeup, good slider though his command of that pitch was so-so. Second time through the lineup did bite him some, which is to be expected for a guy making his first start. I would be perfectly comfortable with giving him another start if Strasburg needs time. I would prefer it to Cole or Jordan.

    I don’t know what’s up with Ryan Zimmerman. He’s been in stretches like this before, he was hitting .220 in June of 2012 and finished with his customary .285/25 homers/95 RI. Similar in 2011: he was hitting .219 in July of 2011 and finished at .289. Of course, in 2012, he had the magical cortisone shot. I know Mike Napoli had a cortisone shot to help his plantar fasciitis in 2013. Perhaps that’s an option for ZIm.

    Clint Robinson needs to be cut. Not just because of these last couple games, which have been awful. He just brings nothing to the table. He doesn’t hit for average, he doesn’t hit for power, he can’t defend, he can’t run. He has no tool that makes him useful on the bench. I would bring up Matt den Dekker. Even if he doesn’t hit, he at least brings more to the table than Clint.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:31 PM

      My out of the box thought is that September he becomes the Stammen. Best stuff I’ve seen when he was fresh. Has the K pitch. Has the composure. Could solve some need.

      Maybe was overthrowing early and tired quickly. I want to see him in 1 more start to see if 2nd time around was another key but most hits like Rizzo’s could’ve been a doubleplay ball instead of a single.

      • infideljack - Jun 7, 2015 at 1:35 AM

        Roark is Stammen’s replacement. He needs to go back to the pen until next year. He is the experienced confident guy we need. Joe Ross is a project and probably a future rotation guy. I would rather have him as the 5 starter than a pressure reliever. Ross may learn to be a JZnn over the nest 4 years. He is a long way off right now.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 7, 2015 at 8:23 AM

        Nats will have an 8 man pen in the playoffs. Now that Joe Cool is on the 40 man I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a September call up and tried in that role, clearly for that period only, not 2016.

        The problem as I see it is you need ice in the veins relievers and Aaron Barrett doesn’t. Why trade the farm if you have a potential in Joe Cool.

    • senators69 - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:49 PM


    • Eugene in Oregon - Jun 6, 2015 at 4:46 PM

      +1 on all three points.

  5. nattygoats - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:06 PM

    Espi deserves to bat 2nd NOT!!!!! Zimm

  6. manassasnatsfan - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:09 PM

    Agreeing with Danny.

    Ramos 2 hanging slide to crush. Result grounder in the hole.

    Robinson 2 hanging slider to crush. One fouled one taken. One slider at no time a strike would have been a walk, but decides he can crush it. Wrong.

    Espi 2 hanging sliders one fouled one taken. The strikeout was a good slider in the zone.

    When they hang them bang them.

    Six hangers to the last 3 batters with zippy results.

    Zim has to move to the 7 or 8 hole if he stays in at all.

    He is a rally killer where he is.

    I like that Ross was not a nibbler.

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:10 PM

    The wisdom of RZim in the 2 spot failed as you risk GIDPs and Ks and he did that combo with men on base. He’s not the reason why the Nats loss as the situational hitting was awful and Ross had nothing left in the 5th.

    • nattygoats - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:13 PM

      He was most of the reason. His AB in the sixth was terrible

  8. exposremains - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:12 PM

    There has to be a better option lhb off the bench.

  9. nattygoats - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:12 PM

    MW doesn’t seem pleased. Nor,should he be. Sit Zimm. DL him

  10. exposremains - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:14 PM

    Reminds me of 2013 team. Very streaky. Win a bunch then lose a bunch keeping them around .500

    • Eric - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:17 PM

      I don’t recall that the 2013 team was ever even a pale waning shadow of the team that just took a month to storm from 8 back to take over first place.

      • exposremains - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:36 PM

        7 loss out of 9 and there back tied with Mets. The only reason they are around 1st is because the rest of division is bad. In 2013, Braves were on fire.

      • Eric - Jun 6, 2015 at 4:07 PM

        That has exactly zero to do with whether or not the 2013 Nats ever got remotely as hot as the May 2015 Nats. Were the Sept 2013 Nats even at that level?

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 4:16 PM

        Eric, I don’t get it either in comparisons.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:34 PM

      I call bullish!t on that. Just got Rendon back. Clearly Span, Esco, Harp, Rendon. to get things going. Maybe Ramos 5 then Desi and RZim and the LF

      • infideljack - Jun 7, 2015 at 1:42 AM

        Why would you replace Espinosa with Desmond? I do not get that. Forget the historical stats, my eyes tell me that Desmond is unsuited tempermentally for the pressure and Espinosa has somehow found his groove this season. I do not see it changing.

  11. TimDz - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:31 PM

    Hammels was just on his game today. We have out most consistent pitcher in Znn going tomorrow. Ryan is struggling big time. After he hosts his Foundation Gala tonight, he should take a seat and MW should give Tyler Moore the start tomorrow. Monday is an off day, so that gives Ryan two days in a row to get his head together….

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:45 PM

      Good point on 2 straight days off for RZim. My bigger concern is bat speed.. Hoping rest will help him. He’s a great kid and needs to be perfectly honest with MW on what’s wrong. No time to be hiding something because we all know he isn’t this bad.

      • nattygoats - Jun 6, 2015 at 4:22 PM

        Bad speed doesn’t explain swinging at balls in the dirt.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 4:30 PM

        That’s another problem when you’re not seeing the ball well which is clear. Did you see the meatball he swung through on Thursday?

      • npb99 - Jun 6, 2015 at 5:59 PM

        Unscientific observation, but to me he looks old. Like in 43 or something.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 6:07 PM

        People say Pujols looks old. Hope RZim can find his groove.

    • natsfan1a - Jun 7, 2015 at 6:45 AM

      Just for the record, it’s not Zimm’s foundation gala. It’s the (Nats) Dream Foundation gala. The team site tells me Zimm’s will be on June 22.

      “Ryan is struggling big time. After he hosts his Foundation Gala tonight, he should take a seat and MW should give Tyler Moore the start tomorrow. Monday is an off day, so that gives Ryan two days in a row to get his head together….”

      • natsfan1a - Jun 7, 2015 at 6:47 AM

        Not that I’ve ever attended either. I’m not so much a gala person. 🙂

  12. Ghost of Steve M. - Jun 6, 2015 at 3:55 PM

    “@JamesWagnerWP: MW was terse about the offense. When asked about Hammel, Williams pointed to Nats’ approach: “Swinging at balls outside the strike zone.”

  13. nattygoats - Jun 6, 2015 at 4:22 PM


  14. natsdial8 - Jun 6, 2015 at 5:34 PM

    I don’t get the logic letting players in horrible slumps “play through” it. Are egos such in today’s game that an occasional benching would ruin their confidence ? Just asking seems to me the day or two on the pines (?) would be helpful .

    • npb99 - Jun 6, 2015 at 6:00 PM

      Problem is we have two players like that, Desi and RZ. Can’t bench them both.

      • senators69 - Jun 6, 2015 at 7:54 PM

        Sure you can — TMoore at 1B and Escobar at SS (when he returns).
        Make up some injury/fatigue excuse.
        At this point, TMoore’s batting is not worse than Zimm (and may be better if he played more).
        Fielding? Not sure…
        Infield: Rendon-Escobar-Espi-TMoore
        BUT as I said, I think Rizzo is hoping Desi breaks out so he can get more for him in trade.

  15. senators5 - Jun 6, 2015 at 8:19 PM

    Obviously other GMs read the box scores and more importantly the contracts now and in the future soooo who in their right mind would give up anything close to quality for Desmond?

    • senators69 - Jun 6, 2015 at 9:37 PM

      Yes, but if he rallies, Rizzo may get a bit more given Desi’s past slow starts
      He could keep him for the hoped-for post season and a hoped-for good performance from Desi.

      I doubt the Nats would offer Desi a Qualifying Offer (set at $15.3M last off-season and likely to go up next year). He’s not worth the QO, and if so, then the only choice is to keep him or trade him.

      I’d trade him…I don’t like “hoped-for” and something is better than nothing, especially if you can cover the position and the bat with others.

      • manassasnatsfan - Jun 6, 2015 at 10:49 PM

        I doubt he would sign the QO so that is not a problem offering.

      • infideljack - Jun 7, 2015 at 1:48 AM

        There is no way I want to see Desmond in the post season even on the bench. I would rather have Difo on the bench for emergencies.
        Desmmond has been a post season liability. I hope Span is in good health at the end of 2015, I like him but last year he was worthless in October. Same for RZim and JW.

  16. edshelton2013 - Jun 7, 2015 at 8:59 AM

    I agree with your comment re: benching a slumping regular for a day or two. At least move ’em down in the order.
    Screw the egos. We need to put the most productive lineup on the field.
    As far as yesterday’s pathetic hitting goes, I guess we should have expected it since Hammel is now 9-0 against us.





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